Twelve people were arrested and at least five officers “seriously injured” in clashes outside the Iranian embassy in London, the Metropolitan Police has said, as protesters demanded an end to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Five officers were hospitalised, some with broken bones, despite riot police equipped with shields and helmets being brought in to “restore order among the protestors and to protect other officers”, according to the force.
The disorder initially broke out outside the embassy in Knightsbridge, before moving to Marble Arch and then to Maida Vale, where the Islamic Centre of England was targeted, Scotland Yard said, adding that masonry, bottles and other projectiles were thrown.
Large and peaceful demonstrations had taken place outside the embassy in recent days, as widespread protests – sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of Tehran’s morality police – spread from Iran to countries across the globe.
“While the majority of those who attended the embassy on Sunday continued to act responsibly, a significant group who arrived actively sought to confront officers and protestors from groups they were not in agreement with,” the Met said on Sunday night.
Officers were able to protect the security of the embassy but in doing so, were subjected to further attacks, Scotland Yard said.
Angry protesters could be seen shouting and pushing against officers who had formed a line in front of the embassy, with footage shared online showing violent altercations breaking out among those in the crowd.
One clip showed two officers wrestling a protester to the ground who appeared to have broken through the police line.
The crowds chanted “Death to the Islamic Republic” and waved what was formerly Iran’s national flag, prior to the revolution in 1979. Red paint was also thrown on the embassy.
By 7.30pm, the crowds had been cleared from outside the Iranian embassy, but a handful of officers remained. There was little sign of the scenes from earlier in the day, except for a few battered posters, one bearing a photo of Amini and another bearing the message: “Stop execution in Iran.”
Riot police cordoned off Kilburn Road, near the Islamic Centre of England, with mounted police reportedly stationed behind the lines of shielded officers.
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Police have put a Section 35 dispersal order in place for the next 48 hours in the area impacted by the disorder.
Commander Karen Findlay said: “We respect the right of people to protest peacefully and always work with organisers to make that possible, but we will not tolerate unprovoked attacks on our officers as we have seen today or protest that leaves other communities feeling unsafe.
“We have officers in hospital tonight because they were attacked in what was a significant outbreak of violent disorder. We will make sure they get the support they need. We have already made a number of arrests, but we know there are people who were not caught tonight who committed serious offences.
“In the coming days, we will be using all the tools at our disposal – including CCTV and other footage – to identify those people and bring them to justice.”
It comes after Iran’s foreign ministry said on Sunday it had summoned Britain’s ambassador Simon Shercliff over what it described as a hostile atmosphere created by London-based Farsi language media outlets.
Momentous protests have been staged in cities across Iran since Amini’s death nine days ago, with people across the country’s gender ethnic, regional, and class divides coming together to support women’s rights – in the face of armed regime militiamen.
Amnesty International said there had been “a harrowing pattern of Iranian security forces deliberately and unlawfully firing live ammunition at protesters”, as state television reported that 41 people had died in the protests – a figure it said was “unofficial”.
In a phone call on Saturday with the family of a security official who was killed, Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi said he had urged authorities to “decisively deal with those who disrupt the country’s security and peace”, labelling the demonstrations “rioting and wickedness”.
Speaking a day earlier at the sidelines of the United Nations summit, Mr Raisi claimed that Amini’s death in custody – three days after she was seized for wearing her hijab too loosely – would be “steadfastly” investigated.
Furious protesters, who widely believe the young Kurdish woman was severely beaten before falling into a coma, have burned police buildings and seized control of squares and streets, with the regime’s enforcers reported yesterday to have effectively lost control of the city of Oshnavieh, retreating to the outskirts.
In a courageous challenge to clerics, some women taking part in the protests have cut their hair and burned their hijabs in public.
The Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, said at least 1,200 people had been arrested in the protests, among them reported to be students and journalists.
Additional reporting by PA